Welcome to the Wonderful World of Wicket KeepersMartin Chandler |
Author: Sutton, Luke
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Rating: 3.5 stars
This one has an interesting title, especially at the point when that and the list of contents was all I had seen. The latter suggested the book was a series of profiles, eleven of the fourteen chapters being titled Jos Buttler, Geraint Jones, Chris Read, Sarah Taylor, Warren Hegg, Alec Stewart, Amy Jones, Peter Moores, Michael Bates and Keith Piper. But the title indicated something else entirely, and it soon became clear that Luke Sutton, himself a fine ‘keeper with Somerset, Derbyshire and Lancashire, has written a very different sort of cricket book.
As to the title of the book, as anyone who has played the game regularly will know wicketkeepers are very much a breed apart. It is not always the case, but words like eccentric, quirky, idiosyncratic and even downright insane attach to them with much greater frequency than they do to batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders.
And what the book is really about is what makes ‘keepers tick. It isn’t about individual matches, or history, or biographies. It seeks to establish what makes ‘keepers what they are, and I can see the logic in that being a question that only those who have practiced the dark art can answer. So the book will read very differently to the ten percent or so of cricket lovers who keep or have kept wicket themselves than it does to the other ninety per cent. To all however, Welcome to the Wonderful World of Wicket Keepers is an illuminating read.
In many ways the thread that runs through the book is the well known Suresh Menon quote that sits at the top of the rear cover of the book; You don’t have to be mad to be a wicketkeeper, but it helps. Although don’t let that fool you as while Sutton is certainly not a man who’s writing is without humour, his book does make a serious attempt to analyse the art he practised for so many years.
The first couple of chapters amount to Sutton interviewing himself, and giving his own perceptions about the questions he goes on to explore with those whose thoughts comprise the eleven chapters that bear their names. He explains how and why he got into ‘keeping, those who influenced him, and what he saw as his strengths and weaknesses as well as comparing and contrasting other ‘keepers and their styles and techniques. Having been through that exercise Sutton then sums up and draws a few conclusions in an interesting closing chapter; So……. Who Are We?
Personally I was no great shakes as a cricketer, and to the extent that I did have ambitions in my playing days those involved bowling wrist spin rather than keeping wicket, but it is something I was occasionally persuaded to do and, had I read Sutton’s book half a century ago might have persuaded me that was cricketing path to take. It is a thoroughly worthwhile book, although I do wonder whether it might have been a little longer as I would have been interested in reading chapters on the subject of those who do get frequent mentions, Alan Knott, Bob Taylor and James Bracey, as well as a couple of others whose names didn’t figure quite as frequently as I expected, Matt Prior and Jonny Bairstow.
I suspect that Sutton’s response to that comment would be that he had to stop somewhere, and in that respect he is of course correct. By the time I had finished typing the preceding paragraph the names of father and son Jim and Bobby Parks had already crossed my mind, and then there are a myriad of names from Australia, India and all the other Test playing countries. But then perhaps there are a series of follow ups planned, and a series of fine books they would make as well.
……… and, apropos of nothing very much, when is someone going to write a biography of The Prince, Jack Blackham?